Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

3-D Scan May Help Detect Breast Cancer

Study: Stereoscopic Mammography May Have Advantages Over Standard Mammography
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 28, 2007 (Chicago) -- A novel imaging scan that offers a 3-D view of the breast appears to be more accurate at spotting breast cancer than currently used techniques, researchers report.

The method, called stereoscopic digital mammography, reduced the number of false positives by 49%, compared with standard digital mammography, says David J. Getty, PhD, division scientist at BBN Technologies of Cambridge, Mass.

"This means many fewer women would be unnecessarily recalled for additional diagnostic workups, resulting in reduced health care costs and patient anxiety," he tells WebMD.

The number of false negatives -- missed cancers -- was cut by nearly 40%, says Getty, who has been working on the development of the technology over the past 12 years.

That finding could have been due to chance. But Getty says he thinks that it will take on what researchers call statistical significance -- meaning there's less than five-in-100 odds that it is due to chance -- as more women are studied.

Getty presented results of the first 1,093 women to be enrolled in a trial pitting stereoscopic digital mammography against standard digital mammography in women at high risk of breast cancer at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

By the end of the five-year trial this December, 1,500 women will have been enrolled.

Creating a 3-D Breast Image

Carl D'Orsi, MD, director of the breast imaging center at Emory University in Atlanta, where the trial is being conducted, says another advantage of the new technique is that it reduced by 80% the number of missed calcium lesions in the breast.

"These lesions are the first indicator of the earliest type of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)," he tells WebMD. In DCIS, cancer cells have not yet spread beyond the ducts of the breast, so it is highly curable.

Getty says that standard mammography exams, in which radiologists take two two-dimensional pictures of the breast (one vertical, one side-to-side), are difficult to interpret.

"Subtle lesions may be masked by underlying or overlying normal tissue," he says. "And normal tissue scattered at different depths can align to mimic a lesion, leading to false positives."

Stereoscopic digital mammography gets around those problems by giving the radiologist a picture of the entire breast in depth, Getty says.

Each of two digital X-ray images taken from two different points of view is merged on a stereo display workstation to create a 3-D view of the breast.

"It's like seeing a 3-D movie with polarized glasses," he says.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow